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While everyone was talking about Florida’s hot start–prior to their
five-game losing streak–no one noticed that the Phillies were getting
phlattened, to the tune of 7-16. The culprit? The Phillies are dead last in
the National League with 82 runs scored. That’s an average of 3.6 runs a
game, a number that seems respectable until I tell you an average NL team’s
scored about five a game. The Phillies are also last in the NL in on-base
percentage and slugging percentage, so their place in the runs cellar is
reasonable.

The culprits? Not Mickey Morandini, though mark my words, he will be.

Name            AB   OBP   SLG

Alex Arias 29 .152 .034 Kevin Jordan 34 .171 .206 Rico Brogna 82 .270 .378 Ron Gant 84 .302 .393 Doug Glanville 93 .307 .344

Ouch. The only bright spot so far is the performance of Bobby Abreu,
who is putting up a .441 OBP with good power. He and Scott Rolen
have crossed the plate 28 times, or more than a third of the team’s total
runs scored. It can be argued that a good offensive team can support one or
two defense-oriented, bat-challenged players like Rey Ordonez, but
three regulars, plus a pitcher in the nine hole, and maybe Arias or Jordan
taking a turn? This is an offense that, playing behind the league-best
Atlanta pitching staff and its 3.04 ERA, would still lose more than half
its games.

Stories are circulating that Rico Brogna is pressing or distracted
by not having a long-term contract. These ignore the obvious problem that
Brogna isn’t a very good hitter in the first place, and his cold start is
not wildly out of line with his career performance (an OBP of .325 and a
SLG of .460). It’s not like he’s Pat Burrell or something (Burrell,
it should be noted, is finally starting to come out of his early-season
slump in Scranton).

It’s quite likely that these guys won’t continue to hit this badly and that
the Phillies won’t finish the season in last place. But the contrast is
striking: just as the Royals were heralded for their quick start and lauded
for their youth movement, so now is Florida being recognized for the job
they’ve done assembling talent after 1997’s slash-and-burn. In the city of
Brotherly Love, meanwhile, the vultures are already circling and headlines
read:

"No relief in sight"

"Marlins handle punchless Phils"

"The meek shall inherit the cellar"

This is really the value of the quick start: the Marlins, no matter what
occurs the rest of the season, will appear in next year’s annuals with
their start mentioned as an indicator of their talent, while the Phillies,
even if they go 35-15 over the next two months, will never be the apples of
Baseball Tonight‘s eye.

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